Today came the news that seven former Labour MPs have decided to quit the party they have represented for years and formed a new ‘Independent Group’ within Parliament where they stand as Independents. In a press conference this morning, each of them offered damning indictments of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, describing it as ‘institutionally racist,’ anti-Western and pro-Brexit. The seven MPs, who include Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna, have said that they will stand on a platform of pro-Western, anti-Brexit, and against ‘left-wing intellectuals’ and for working class people. The name of Harold Wilson was mentioned many times, explaining why the policies that Wilson espoused in the ‘60 and ‘70s had been removed in the wake of the ‘hard-left’ takeover of the party in recent years.
Rumours of a split in the Labour Party have been growing for over a year now, with continual stories of disgruntled and polarised moderates being forced out either by the Momentum lobby or taking the decision themselves. Barrow MP John Woodcock had already left the party, having said that he did not think Corbyn was the right person to be Prime Minister. Frank Field, John Mann and Kate Hoey have also distanced themselves from the party over Brexit in the last few years, but with their strongly Eurosceptic views, they are unlikely to join the new group any time soon. Whether the Independent Group can win over more supporters from inside the party ranks remains to be seen, although it is common knowledge that many inside the party are angry with the current position that Corbyn is heading towards. Some are not ready to take the risk of leaving if there seats could be made at risk, but there will be increasing pressure from those who have left to persuade others to leave a party they feel has been lost to the whims of a hard-left cable.
Anger over Brexit has driven many in the Labour Party to their extremes, and the tepid response of Corbyn caused the leadership election in 2016. Corbyn lost the support of the majority of his Parliamentary Party, and he still does not command authority among many who sit on his benches. If substantial numbers start to go against the leadership, the chances of Labour getting a clear majority for anything, let alone a general election, will look to be decreasing. The new rebels will have to learn the lessons of the SDP, who ultimately failed to drum up enough support electorally, and their numbers will have to rise to become a major force in British politics. The schism inside the Labour Party, at a time when it should be preparing for power, is only going to get wider.